Practicing Mindfulness and Stress Reduction on the Go- 26 Ways
Modified and expanded from Saki Santorelli’s 21 ways to reduce stress during the workday for the Mindful Living Program. José Calderón-Abbo, M.D.
The following ways are simply a road map. Allow your curiosity and sense of possibility to unfold as you explore “your own ways”
1- Place a reminder to bring awareness to your breath or do a brief meditation from 3 to 30 minutes in the morning before your mind embarks on rushing or planning for the day
2- Daily routine: Use common activities to ground yourself. For example, while washing dishes, be mindful of the sensations of the water and soap, the movements of your hands…when thoughts come, letting them come and letting them go, and gently bringing your awareness to the washing of dishes. This same mindfulness can be brought to folding clothes, cleaning, walking, taking a shower, brushing teeth – any activity
3- As you enter the car and before you turn on the ignition, take a few deep breaths, and mindfully and kindly inquire- “How am I?”- noticing what is present (thoughts, emotions, body sensations)
4- While driving or working, bring awareness to any body tension present, e.g. hands wrapped tightly around the steering wheel, shoulders raised, stomach tight. Bring awareness to the breath dissolving the tension with each outbreath
5- While driving decide not to play the radio or talk on the cellphone. Sense the car moving, its speed and the position of your body sitting, the noises and temperature. How does it feel to drive “mindfully”?
6- Red lights and stop signs are natural reminders to stop and just be, bringing awareness to your breath, the sky or the trees, do a mini mindful exercise. (Keep your eyes open!!)
7- On the interstate, experiment with riding in the right lane, going 5 miles below the speed limit
8- Take a moment to orient yourself to your workday once you park your car at work. Use the walk across the parking lot to step into your life, to know where you are, and where you are going instead of what you need to do
9- While booting the computer, do a mini mindfulness exercise or bring awareness to your breath. Notice any tension in the body and let it dissolve. You can do mindful stretches at your desk
10- Use a computer screensaver, or cell-phone wallpaper with words or phrases to remind you to breath, regroup and recoup, i.e. “breathing in I relax” or “breathe”.
11- Use breaks to truly relax rather than simple “pausing”. For instance, instead of having coffee or a cigarette or reading or surfing the net, try taking a short walk, or sitting at your desk. Use it to collect yourself focusing on the breath or do a mini mindfulness exercise
12- At lunch, changing your environment can be helpful
13- Try closing the door, take your shoes off and take time to consciously relax
14- Decide to “STOP” for 1-3 minutes every couple of hours during the workday. Become aware of how you are breathing and of your bodily sensations, allowing the mind to settle-in as time to regroup and recoup.
15- Use everyday cues in your environment as reminders to “center” yourself, e.g. when the telephone rings, sitting at the computer desk, parking the car before getting out. Use the sky, trees, a song or a poem posted on your wall to remind you of the bigger picture.
16- Chose to eat one or two lunches per week in silence and mindfully. Use this time to eat slowly and be with yourself.
17- At the end of the workday, try retracing today’s activities acknowledging and congratulating yourself for what you’ve accomplished and then make a list for tomorrow. You’ve done enough for the day!
18- Pay attention to the short walk to your car –breathing in the warm or cold fresh air. Feel the cold or warmth in your body. What may happen if you open to and accept these environmental conditions and bodily sensations rather than resisting them? Listen to the sounds outside your workplace. Can you walk without feeling rushed? What happens when you slow down?
19- At the end of the workday when your car is warming up, sit quietly and consciously make the transition from work to home, taking a moment to simply be, enjoying it for a moment! Like most of us, you are heading to your next full time job –home!
20- When you pull into the driveway or park on the street, take a minute to orient yourself to being with your family members, or pets
21- Try changing your work clothes when you get home. Wash you hands and face. Brush your teeth. This simple act might help you to make a smoother transition into your next “role”; much of the time you can probably spare 5-minutes to do this. Say hello to each family member, pets or to the people you live with. Take a moment to look into their eyes. If you live alone, feel what it feels like to enter the quietness of your home and the feeling of entering your own environment
22- Try using bathroom routines to regroup and recoup. For example, try not to read or text when in the bathroom, rather tune yourself to the sensations of the body. When brushing teeth or showering, use your non-dominant hand or change your cleaning routine. These changes will help you stay present
23- If possible, at the end of the day and before you go to bed, take 5-10 minutes to be quiet and still, do a mini-meditation or just follow the breath
24- Wear a piece of clothing, a tag, a bracelet or a pin to remind you during the day to breath and to treasure that moment of your life, the only life you have
25- Use natural times to wait as opportunities to take a few breaths, and check-in with yourself. This can occur while waiting or riding an elevator, while waiting in line at the grocery store, or while waiting for someone else
26- Limit texting, answering mail, phone calls, following Twitter or Facebook to specific times in the day, for example, two to four times during the day at scheduled times, and no less than 60-minutes before you go to bed
27- Write your own